England ladies’ angling team protest over trans teammate

The sport’s governing body, the Angling Trust, has denied that transgender women have an advantage

Martha McHardy
Monday 25 September 2023 16:28 BST
<p>Becky Lee Birtwhistle Hodges</p>

Becky Lee Birtwhistle Hodges

Members of the England women‘s angling team have refused to compete in the world championship after the inclusion of a transgender teammate in the squad.

Becky Lee Birtwhistle Hodges, a trans woman, was selected to compete for the team at the championships in Italy, but some members of the squad have claimed that allowing transgender women to compete in the tournament is “unfair”.

The protest comes after the team’s former captain Heather Lindfield quit earlier this year over the issue. Members of the squad also previously pulled out of the Home Nations shore angling championship due to Hodges’ selection.

The sport’s governing body, the Angling Trust, has denied that transgender women have an advantage.

Ms Lindfield told the Mail on Sunday other teams reacted negatively to Ms Hodges’ inclusion in the squad after she won a bronze medal at the 2018 world championships

“All the other countries wouldn’t speak to us. When we went up to collect our medal, nobody clapped and people walked out,” she said.

“Although Becky Lee would be an asset to my team, it’s unfair. If you win, you can’t enjoy the victory because it feels like you’ve cheated. It’s a shame. Other girls would have applied for the world championships if Becky Lee hadn’t been involved.”

Ms Hodges had sex-reassignment surgery during 2019 and is said to have been a keen fisher since she was 10, according to a profile on an angling website.

While some have claimed transgender women have unfair physical advantages when competing in women’s sport, transgender campaigners have argued that gender affirmation treatments can significantly lessen the biological advantages of being born male.

They have also argued that there are rarely transgender-only classifications for transgender men and women to compete in, especially at an amateur level.

The Angling Trust has denied claims that transgender women have a physical advantage in fishing.

But Ms Lindfield claimed upper-body strength is vital in the sport. “A man can cast 150 yards. I can only cast 70. Some girls only cast 50. Strength plays a major part. It gives Becky Lee a lot more water she can fish in,” she said.

The Angling Trust’s chief executive Jamie Cook said the gender of an angler was based on their passport or gender recognition certificate.

A review of the selection criteria in the sport is underway, with any amendments due to take effect next year.

Mr Cook said: “This review is yet to be completed, and until it is our policy remains the same.

“Team selection is currently based on this policy, but our ongoing consultation with women’s team members and managers, which will be a key part of our review, could see this change.”

The Angling Trust were contacted for further comment.

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